It may sound like a very strange paradox, but the best thing about this government sometimes is how inept and incompetent it is. They were labelled as visionary and transformational when they came into power, full of ideas about how they would change the country after ‘nine years of neglect’. Because of their Green arm, they cancelled many of National’s roading projects, wanting instead to focus on rail, cycleways, walkways and public transport in general. It was obvious to everyone except the government that this approach was going to cause massive traffic gridlock, which is indeed what has happened. After all, the ideology does not seem to allow for the fact that, while you are building the rail and cycle systems, people still need to be able to get to work.

NZTA went along with the government’s plans, wanting to develop more rail projects and reduce the number of roading projects. They were all in favour of the government’s plan. Two years later, NZTA find themselves in what would be considered an enviable position, if it were not so common among government departments and agencies; they have money to spend on projects, but no projects to spend money on.

So NZTA, a much-maligned government agency, has decided to spend the money it has been allocated on roads after all. And this does not please Climate Change Minister James Shaw one little bit.

What is it they say? Oh dear, how sad, never mind.

Climate Change Minister James Shaw says it’s “very annoying” money allocated for Auckland’s light rail project will probably end up being spent on roads.

The Government’s promise of light rail from the CBD to Mt Roskill, expected to cost $463 million, has been put on hold until at least 2021 – the original date Labour said it would be completed. 

“It should have moved faster than it was, and I think that the frustrations that our Transport Ministers have had with, you know, agencies and other factors in getting that over the line sooner is pretty evident,” Green Party co-leader Shaw told Newshub Nation on Saturday.

Well James, what can I say? You are part of this government. If the progress of the projects has been too slow, unfortunately, there is no one else to blame. You and your hapless government needed to make sure that all funding, consents, plans and development were fast-tracked (excuse the pun) to get the light rail system up and running as soon as possible. Sadly, much as you would like, you cannot blame National and ‘nine years of neglect’ for this.

NZTA wants nearly three-quarters of the money to now be spent on highways instead. National Party transport spokesperson Chris Bishop said it “can’t happen quickly enough”, saying the decision to allocate money to light rail has seen roading projects around the country stall. 

NZTA can reallocate funding from rapid transit to something else as long as it doesn’t breach funding limits set out in the Government Policy Statement on Land Transport.

“Well, it is very annoying, because we think that there is a solution there,” Shaw told Newshub Nation host Simon Shepherd. 

The solution is to spend allocated funds on roading projects that have been delayed because, while everyone is waiting years or decades for the rail projects, people still have to travel to work, school, or wherever. That is what NZTA is doing, and good on them.

He said it shouldn’t dent voters’ confidence in the Government’s ability to deliver better transport solutions for the famously traffic-clogged city.

“We are going to deliver on it. And actually if you look at what we’ve done is we’ve diverted $14.5 billion over the course of the next years into light rail, heavy rail, walking, cycling, public transport and so on.

NEWSHUB.

What an absolute joke. Please tell me what this government has actually done. Yes, it has built just over 200 houses in 2 years, against a promise of 1,000 in the first year and 10,000 every year after that. It has allocated $1.9 billion to mental health, but so far all it has done is to set up an office in Wellington, after 2 years. It has a ‘Cancer Action Plan’, but no drugs. It promised to solve homelessness, but now spends over $3 billion a year on housing assistance, most of which goes on motels. They have proved that they cannot deliver the things they say they will. Everyone knows it.

In the meantime, there is a small glimmer of hope for some of our much-needed roading projects. NZTA is not drinking the government Koolaid. The agency has been criticised for a number of things of late, but kudos to them for this.